Snakes in the bathroom and pizza in the library–Nora Jean never dreamed 38 weeks of fourth grade would be like this!
Fourth grade in Fort Worth, Texas is bad. Something is always happening in Mrs. Carter’s class. Skinny Nora Jean, chubby Rosalie, the oh-so-perfect Thomasina, Chip, Rex, and the dreaded Jimmy Lee keep on their toes. First, there is a snake in the girls’ bathroom, the fall spook house, and then there a choked-up pepperoni. Feisty Nora Jean throws herself wholeheartedly into each adventure. School isn’t boring this year. Find out more by reading 38 Weeks Till Summer Vacation.
Originally published by Viking, and now back in print, this popular award-winning book has been revised and updated and will enchant today’s readers.
Award for 38 Weeks Till Summer Vacation
Minnesota Maud Hart Lovelace Award Winner.
Reviews for 38 Weeks
“Kerby has a keenly observant eye, and her characters have a Cleary-like veracity. A first-rate school story.” ALA Booklist
“The children are believable, their lives brimming with details that ground them in reality. Vigorous and funny, with the Texas flavor providing an added treat.” Kirkus Reviews
Mona Kerby Interview about 38 Weeks till Summer Vacation
Question: Was there ever a snake in the toilet?
Not at our school. But I read about a snake in a toilet in the Fort Worth Star Telegram newspaper. The reporter told of a family finding it in their bathroom. The story made me laugh, and I decided to use it.
Question: What is true in the book?
That is hard to answer. Once I heard writer Patricia MacLachlan say that “fact and fiction are both truths of life.” What is true? I used to have a pizza party in the library in September for all the students who read over summer vacation. The dust on the library shelves is true. The teachers in the book are real teachers. I made a soap dog in third grade. No one stole it. The author, Miss Knox, has my grandmother’s maiden name. I made up Jimmy Lee and his little brother.
Question: Did anyone ever choke on a pepperoni in the library?
No, thank goodness.
Question: Who is Nora Jean?
She is a little like me, but she also is from my imagination. I named her after Nora, one of my fourth-grade students. She was new to our building, and the other girls were not being friendly. So, I said, “Nora, don’t you worry. I’ll write a story, and you’ll be my main character.” When the story was finally accepted for publication, I raced down to Nora’s classroom and told the teacher that I needed Nora. Then, we went straight to the ice cream shop and celebrated.
Question: Did authors ever come to Little School?
Lots of times! And, don’t forget–I was the library teacher and an author–and I came every day.
Classroom Activities for 38 Weeks till Summer Vacation
- 38 Weeks Till Summer Vacation from Reader’s Choice: The Books Children Love to Read and Teachers Love to Teach: Teacher Edition Grade 4. New York: Scholastic, 1994. Reprinted with permission.
- Story Cube
- Write a Newspaper Article
- Writing Clues
- Readers’ Theater #1: “Live from the Girls’ Bathroom” (See below)
- Readers’ Theater #2: “A Real Live Author” (See below)
Readers’ Theater #1: “Live from the Girls’ Bathroom” from 38 Weeks
I am _________________, and I play the Narrator.
I am _________________, and I play Nora Jean.
I am _________________, and I play Chip.
I am _________________, and I play Mr. Miller, the principal.
I am _________________, and I play the television reporter.
Narrator: It is a hot September afternoon at school, and Chip and Nora Jean have just finished cleaning the erasers by beating them outside. Inside the school, they stop by the water fountain, and Nora Jean steps into the girls’ bathroom.
Nora Jean: (screams and then yells) Chip, come here!
Chip: Gee whiz, Nora Jean. I can’t go in the girls’ bathroom.
Nora Jean: You’re gonna miss it if you don’t!
Narrator: Nora Jean stares at the toilet. She flushes. Nothing happens.
Nora Jean: Chip! This may be your last chance!
Narrator: Chip tiptoes into the girls’ bathroom. Both of them stare at the toilet bowl. A big black snake stares at them. That’s when the commotion starts. The girls in Mrs. Carter’s class come in, and they start screaming. Mrs. Carter comes in, Mr. Miller comes in, and someone calls the fire department. After the students go back to class, Mr. Miller comes to the room.
Mr. Miller: Come with me, Nora Jean and Chip.
Narrator: Nora Jean and Chip obey, but they think they are in trouble.
Chip: Mr. Miller, Nora Jean and I didn’t put the snake in the toilet, honest. And I’m sorry for going in the girls’ bathroom, but I thought Nora Jean was gonna puke. Honest.
Mr. Miller: What’s that?
Narrator: Mr. Miller seems to be thinking of something else. He straightens his tie.
Mr. Miller: Oh, sure I understand. Listen, kids. There’s a Channel 5 reporter who wants to ask you a few questions on camera. You’ll be representing us, so be on your best behavior, okay?
Nora Jean: (gulps) Yes, sir.
Narrator: The reporter wants to film the story in the bathroom. Mr. Miller, Chip, and Nora Jean line up in front of the stalls. Behind them, the fireman work on the toilet.
Reporter: Folks, we’re standing here in the girls’ bathroom of R. B. Nolen Elementary School. A most unusual event occurred here today. It seems that a rattlesnake from the sewer swam up the pipes into one of the toilets. Well, little girl, what do you have to say?
Nora Jean: It was a sight to behold.
Reporter: And little boy, I take it you rushed in to aid a damsel in distress. What do you have to say for yourself?
Chip: I wish we could have snakes in the toilet every day.
Reporter: Ho-ho, out of the mouths of babes. And here is the principal, Mr. Eugene Miller. Speak your words of wisdom, Mr. Principal.
Mr. Miller: (fiddles with his tie and pulls up his pants) Uh, yes. We try to provide all kinds of learning experiences here at R. B. Nolen Elementary.
Reporter: Well, well. And who said Texas couldn’t improve its schools.
Narrator: At this moment, the fireman finally kills the snake in the toilet by slicing off the snake’s head.
Chip: Eew, gross.
Reporter: Hush, kid. And so, once again, our firemen have saved us. Back to you, Brad.
Narrator: The reporter reminds them to watch the six o’clock news, then he leaves the girls’ bathroom of R. B. Nolen Elementary School.
Everyone: And that is just another ordinary day at school.
Readers’ Theater #2: “A Real Live Author” from 38 Weeks
I am ____________________, and I play the Narrator.
I am ____________________, and I play Nora Jean.
I am ____________________, and I play Chip.
I am ____________________, and I play the author, Anne Knox.
I am ____________________, and I play Student #1.
I am ____________________, and I play Student #2.
I am_____________________, and I play Student #3.
Narrator: The famous Anne Knox is coming to speak to the students in Mrs. Carter’s class. Nora Jean and Chip are waiting on the porch to greet her.
Nora Jean: I am glad Mrs. Carter picked us to be the hosts for the author.
Chip: Me, too. My uncle says this is a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Nora Jean: I wonder if she’ll be driving a limousine?
Chip: Probably. Authors are rich.
Nora Jean: You think she’ll wear a mink coat?
Narrator: It is Anne Knox. Nora Jean unrolls red construction paper which she has taped together and which she hopes looks like a red carpet. Chip and Nora Jean introduce Anne Knox to everyone they see before they bring her to Mrs. Carter’s class. Anne Knox talks about books and writing.
Anne Knox: I’ve talked long enough. Do you have any questions?
Student #1: How many books have you written?
Anne Knox: I’ve had five published and I’ve written many more that are unpublished.
Student #2: Why did you write about roaches?
Anne Knox: (smiles) Everyone loves roaches, don’t they?
Student #3: Eew-yuk!
Nora Jean: Do you like to write? I was going to be a writer, but I was too busy.
Anne Knox: Interesting question. I like to write because I like to think. But sometimes I goof off.
Chip: Do you get mugged at airports?
Anne Knox: Pardon me? I’m not sure I understand.
Chip: You know. Since you’re so famous. Do people mug you and ask for your autograph?
Anne Knox: (laughs) I’m not famous at all. I’m just an ordinary person.
Nora Jean: Well, at least you’re a live author instead of a dead one.
Narrator: This time, the whole class laughs. Mrs. Carter then invites everyone to have some cake.